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Does Marijuana Affect Your Memory?

Have you been wondering if your cannabis use affects your memory? There has long been an anecdotal sentiment that cannabis does cause memory loss. However, recent studies have cleared up all misconceptions about marijuana’s effect on memory. 

Let’s take a look at just how cannabis use impacts memory. 

Defining Memory as it Relates to Cannabis 

Most science around memory is divided into two sub-categories – short-term and long-term memory. Short-term memory, often referred to as working memory, refers to immediate events or thoughts happening in the current moment. Long-term memory refers to where and how information is stored indefinitely. 

Memory is much more than simply our ability to think about past experiences; it can have a lasting and significant impact on the decisions we make throughout life. 

So, can marijuana really affect memory? 

Marijuana’s effect on Short-Term Memory 

Marijuana has certain chemical compounds, such as THC and CBD, that pass the blood-brain barrier. Once these chemicals enter the bloodstream and eventually the brain, they activate something called the endocannabinoid system. This system is closely intertwined with the areas of the brain that control memory – the hippocampus. 

In the short-term, marijuana can impact your brain receptor’s abilities to process memories. Cannabis can impair short-term memory in a way that’s similar to the effects of alcohol. In this way, a cannabis user may have trouble remembering certain things while high, but the impact is not permanent. 

There is a small amount of evidence showing that heavy cannabis users may have some amounts of damage in the realm of short-term memory. The THC in cannabis can induce problems with encoding memories while high. This means that while a cannabis user is unlikely to ‘blackout’ while high, they may struggle to create new memories. 

Marijuana’s effect on Long-Term Memory 

The short-term damaging effects of marijuana are well-documented. In over 99% of cases, these effects are temporary and have no lasting damage on the brain’s ability to process memory. But what about the long-term effects of cannabis? 

There is less research on the long-term impact of cannabis use. However, current data shows a positive correlation between long-term cannabis use and memory. There is even some early research showing that cannabis can halt or slow the effects of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease, and epilepsy. In animal studies, researchers have found they could prevent the advance of these diseases through the creation of new neurons with cannabis. 

Research on CBD’s effect on the brain has shown that it may be an effective compound in treating psychosis. As CBD is not psychoactive, it doesn’t get the user high, which means they won’t be impacted by any of the short-term memory effects of THC. CBD is already be tested and studied as a treatment to combat memory impairment. 

A Conclusion on the Memory Effects of Cannabis 

There is little doubt surrounding the fact that cannabis use does cause some short-term memory loss. As mentioned before, this damage to short-term memory is almost always temporary. 

In the end, it is quite difficult to conclude whether or not cannabis will impact memory permanently. There have been a number of studies where individuals did experience permanent memory loss, but it cannot be concluded that the memory loss was caused by marijuana alone, as the cannabis use could not be isolated as the sole contributing factor. In other words, the individual’s memory loss may have been impacted by any number of factors, such as other drug use, genetics, etc. 

There have also been studies performed that show cannabis influencing memory functioning after a person’s high is over. However, like the studies previously mentioned, these results were negated as the memory effects completely subsided after a few days of no cannabis use. 

As of now, research shows that marijuana can only impact memory in the short-term, and the effects are temporary. With that being said, there are more and more studies coming to light that show the positive memory effects that cannabis can have on neurodegenerative diseases and overall memory impairment. 


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